Antrim and Newtownabbey Council hears ‘repairing a fence would be more favourable than floral artwork’ claim
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In August, councillors approved the creation of five art installations in each of the seven district electoral areas (DEAs) to develop a “Botanical Borough” theme.
The proposal was initially agreed in October 2021 as part of “a means to animate towns and villages”. It is proposed to deliver 35 pieces of public art by October 2024 with one “large scale signature artwork created in each DEA based upon the area’s chosen botanical emblem” as well as smaller pieces.
The districts’ botanical emblems are: Airport, rose; Antrim, bluebell; Ballyclare, flax flower; Dunsilly. flax flower; Glengormley, forget-me-not; Macedon, cherry blossom; Threemilewater, flax flower.
The concept of an “award-winning Botanical Borough” was the brainchild of celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin to boost recovery from the Covid pandemic.
A report to the Community Planning Committee said the first phase of work was due to be completed by the end of October to deliver one large scale and one smaller installation.
“The time frame for delivery of the initial 14 installations was extremely challenging given that it included identification of locations, discussion with building owners to gain approval, selection of artists and development of designs, which being location specific could only progress once locations were secured,” councillors were told.
Dunsilly Ulster Unionist Councillor Stewart Wilson said feedback from residents and community groups in Parkgate was “not favourable”. Cllr Wilson suggested repairing a fence at the entrance to the village would “provide a more favourable reaction from residents”.
Simon Goldrick, head of arts, culture, tourism and events, replied approval was for public street art and any change would have to be approved by the council although he said that he would be happy to work with the DEA to see if there is a “more innovative solution”.
Threemilewater DUP Alderman Stephen Ross suggested dialogue should have taken place before “driving down a street and seeing it on the side of a wall”.
Mr Goldrick said: “I fully acknowledge that the time frame for consultation was far shorter than I would have liked it to be. Council approval was given in August. We were looking at a very tight turnaround to get the first phase finished before winter. We had hoped to give DEA representatives more time to consider proposals.”
The officer went on to say that consultation for phase two is due to begin with a survey to be sent to elected members to seek their opinions ahead of work commencing in the spring.
Threemilewater DUP Councillor and Mayor Mark Cooper BEM expressed concern there has been no community consultation. “It has been a disaster in our area. There is a sour taste still there.”
Macedon DUP Cllr Matthew Brady commented: “ Within our own DEA, we have similar snags. We are putting up this artwork but there is a community there that is almost being left behind. Consultation is key.”
Antrim DUP Cllr Paul Dunlop BEM said: “The street art in Antrim is ideally located at Ulster Bar Corner.” He suggested a section of hoarding at Pogue’s Entry could be used to depict a selection of businesses which have operated in the town previously.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter